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Dec 14, 2018 - Dec 30, 2018
at Patchogue Theatre

The Long Island Advance

Linda Leuzzi


That Belle.

Played by Emily Behny, she is the role model for young girls and actually women in general, with her spirited take on life. She’s an avid reader, can spot fake things, like Gaston, and doesn’t join in pointless village gossip. She also loves her father, Maurice (Gateway regular Steve Brady, last seen in this year’s “Cabaret”), an eccentric, good-hearted inventor and loving dad. Behny is a marvelous Belle and encompasses her to a T.

Behny, with her beautiful voice and determined persona, who doesn’t cower from the Beast when she finds herself in his castle, drives The Gateway’s production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway Musical.” But the two other leads, the Beast, played by Loren Christopher, whose agony as a prince trapped in a ferocious-looking animal body due to a curse, plays his part with a deep sadness and pathos, and his clumsy attempts at romance at times with a tender, hesitant humor, is brilliant. The deep, rumbling speaking voice and beautiful, plaintive baritone that catches a bit in numbers like “If I Can’t Love Her,” is a haunting longing.

And, oh, that Gaston! Joe Hager, who sings with unabashed brio, is a joy to watch as Belle’s narcissistic suitor. Woo-hoo! He does pushups, shoves five guys away with one hand and ripples his muscles to make his superiority point with Belle. “How can you read?” he asks her while she turns away from him. “There’s no pictures.”

His comedic play is perfect as he blithely pronounces gaffs and refuses to take Belle’s disdainful hints. When he hands Belle a present, a miniature picture of him, she fluffs him off.

Gaston, please. She’s not into you.

(But some were. In back of me, a woman murmured, “What a Gaston! If I didn’t have a husband…”)

Disney’s story has some darkness, especially the wolf puppets in the forest. And there’s dastardly D’Arque (Daniel Deist), the cruel, insane asylum keeper in league with Gaston, who’s trying to lock up Belle’s dad as a bargaining chip after Maurice tells the villagers about the Beast after an accidental stumble in the castle. But it’s kept mostly light and is studded with great characters.

Playing a foolish sidekick is not easy. There’s always the temptation to overdo it, but Courter Simmons as LeFou is nimble and funny as Gaston’s lackey, who is in a constant state of hilarious anxiety, deflecting Gaston’s pops and smacks to the head. He gets the charming dolt across.

The servants in the Beast’s castle, including Lumière (Jonathan Hadley) and Cogsworth (Robert Anthony Jones), are gorgeous in their lighthearted, witty repartee, trying to keep their spirits up, and Belle’s, as they slowly become inanimate things until the curse is lifted. How can you not love slinky Wardrobe Babette, who has an eye on the dashing Lumière, even if his arms are torchères?

You also won’t think the same of wardrobe furniture again after seeing Roxy York, as Madame de la Grande Bouche, the former shining opera star stuck in the castle, whose operatic voice belts out along with the clothes she’s encased with. York has the pipes and acting verve for this fun portrayal.

The production numbers are rousing. “Be Our Guest,” with all the servants on Belle’s side trying to lighten the gloom of the castle, let loose. There are leggy, high-stepping dancers performing the can-can with splits, firecracker ladies, bakers who somersault, dancing spoons and forks. (Spoiler alert: streamers are shot out into the audience at the end.)

Gaston and the villagers as they sit in a brasserie drinking and supporting their friend, with clinking mugs and seated Rockette kicks, is another rouser. The lovely “Beauty and the Beast” song sung by Teri Hansen, who plays Mrs. Potts, the mom to Chip the teacup, (9-year-old Marty Timlin), is a sweet waltz finale that swirls around Belle and the Beast, who hesitantly takes her hand, stumbles a bit, and then lets his love take over.

The story evolves in the 1700s (it was originally written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740) and the set is an exquisite, believable recreation (actually, The Gateway’s set jewel, which is rented out) of a little French village with Belle’s trellised home, a spooky woodland, a dark, gothic castle, complete with staircase, that’s illuminated at the end. The transformation scene of the Beast is pretty astonishing. It takes Loren Christopher up to two hours for the makeup to be applied and then, poof! After some theatre magic, his handsome face appears.

Most of the cast are “Beauty and the Beast” Gateway or Broadway alums and, for all, their sheer enjoyment pours out.

There is no other way to say this. High-beam happiness comes through in this production. We could all use a kind fairy tale this time of year.

 

Dan's Papers

Genevieve Horsburgh


The holiday season is a time for celebration of family, hope and wonder. The Gateway brings the magical world of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to the beautiful Patchogue Theatre. It’s a beloved story of fantasy and love with a heartfelt message that resonates with audiences all over the globe. The Gateway’s production of this timeless tale will leave you smiling ear to ear. From the stunning, enormous set with many moving parts to the intricate makeup bringing the Beast to life, this production of Beauty and the Beast is one more reason to love the talented staff at The Gateway for giving us another reason to celebrate this season.

Directed by Gateway regular Joseph Minutillo, whose work has been seen at local theaters like Bay Street and Guild Hall, Beauty and the Beast is a feast for the senses from beginning to end. When the first bars of the enchanting music begin to play, it will take you back to a simpler time.

The Gateway is known for bringing Broadway-caliber talent to Long Island and this spectacular is no different. The aptly named Belle is played by Emily Behny, who we last saw at Gateway playing Janet in The Rocky Horror Show and Sherrie in Rock of Ages. Having previously performed as Belle in the National Tour of Beauty and the Beast, Behny is a natural as the beautiful, misunderstood, ahead-of-her-time bookworm. She was the brightest star onstage as the beloved beauty, lending her own distinctive sass and strength to the character. The opening song “Belle” was fun and festive, staying true to the Disney classic and don’t be surprised if you start breaking out in song along with the characters.

Gaston may be the “bad guy” in this story, but you can’t help but love Joe Hager’s hilarious portrayal of the narcissistic and muscular hunter. Hager also portrayed Gaston in the National Tour of Beauty and the Beast and it’s no wonder why The Gateway cast him—he’s positively delightful as the villain everyone loves to hate. The scene in the tavern where they celebrate Gaston with his namesake song is boisterous and hysterical, with his sidekick LeFou—played by Courtier Simmons—adding his own comedic genius to the number. I dare you not to laugh out loud!

The heart of the story is the unlikely hero in this tale—the Beast, played by the talented Loren Christopher, who also reprises his role of the Beast from the production’s National Tour and The Gateway’s 2013 production of Beauty and the Beast. It comes as no surprise that Christopher seems made for this role, portraying the Beast first as gruff and growling, hunched over and animal-like and then, as he falls in love with Belle, transformation happens before our eyes. The captivating Beast becomes the Prince he always should have been thanks to the kindhearted, gentle soul of Belle.

The supporting characters that we know and love are portrayed wonderfully, and I especially enjoyed Jonathan Hadley as the flirtatious and funny Frenchman-turned-candlestick, Lumière, who happens to be one of my favorite Disney characters. Hadley has the most spot-on accent and captures the wit and spirit of Lumière perfectly. The number “Be Our Guest” is an easy favorite, with the company performing the scene with gusto and fanfare; from the dancing dishes to the frolicking forks and knives, you can’t help but smile and clap along as this beloved and iconic scene is brought to glorious life through the magic of musical theater.

Robert Anthony Jones plays the stubborn clock Cogsworth hilariously, and Teri Hansen plays the lovable teapot Mrs. Potts so very well. Her performance of the title song brought tears to my eyes as Belle and her Beast glide around the dance floor. The beauty of the song, combined with the characters bringing the story to life, evokes that magical feeling you’ll want to experience over and over again.

The set is spectacular—an enormous structure that turns 360 degrees and portrays the castle’s West Wing with the enchanted rose, Belle’s chamber, the dungeon and more. The cast worked seamlessly through many transitions. The costumes worn by the enchanted characters were charming; from the “candlesticks” held by Lumière to the inventive way they portray Chip, Mrs. Potts teacup son, played by the adorable Marty Timlin. We particularly liked the creepy portrayal of the wolves that surround the Beast’s castle. Madame de la Grande Bouche, the wardrobe opera singer, is brought to life by the powerhouse Roxy York.

The entire production of The Gateway’s Beauty and the Beast is a success, from the massive set to the costumes and the talented actors and ensemble cast members. This lovely Disney tale is fantastically represented and is the perfect holiday treat the entire family can enjoy together.

 

The Theatre Guide

Kristen Weyer


A “tale as old as time” has arrived at The Gateway Playhouse, and this fabulous production is an absolute must-see! When you first enter the theater and see that glistening, golden, rose-carved arch, to when the lights dim and those beloved notes float out from the orchestra, you know you’re in for something special. Seriously, I know the holiday season is crazy, but just GO! You will not be disappointed. The stage version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has everything you know and love from the original film and more. No really, it does have more! Come for all your favorite characters and songs, leave loving a few more! If you’re like me you’ll wish they actually were in the movie version. (Dare I say it? I think I enjoy the stage production even more than the original!)

The plot needs no explanation or summary. You know where it’s going, you know what you want to happen, and you’ll get it…happily ever after. You could hardly ask for a better feeling than the one you’ll have leaving the theater after this production. It’s a magical evening and just in time for Christmas.

This review will be way too long if I give all the details I want to, plus I don’t want to spoil the surprise of the magic. However, suffice it to say that everything came together to turn this show into near perfection. The set? Incredible. The costumes? Stunning. The cast? Flawless.

From charming cottages, through creepy woods, to a forgotten, enchanted castle, this set is magnificent. They make the most use out of limited space the entire time, and the brilliant rotating castle set is very impressive. Intelligent and effective video projections also go a long way in enhancing the differing settings. Designer Kelly Tighe did a wonderful job. A show like this relies heavily on lighting effects and designer Jose Santiago does not disappoint, it was superb.

Costumes. Oh the costumes! How to do them justice? Let’s put it this way…the gold dress received its own round of applause upon appearance. Yes, yes it did. Oh, and I’m still not sure where the legs of Marty Timlin as Chip were; who, by the way, is incredibly adorable and does a fabulous job!

The fact that they got so many perfect castings into one production is almost inconceivable. Emily Behny is everything you could wish for in Belle. She is sweet, charming, gorgeous and has a lovely crystal clear voice. Loren Christopher IS the Beast. He is intimidating and gruff, yet charming, sweet, and funny; and his voice is perfection! He sounds so exactly like what you want to hear you could believe he was Robby Benson (voice of Beast from original animated film).

Robert Anthony Jones as Cogsworth and Jonathan Hadley as Lumiere are both sublime in their portrayals, with flawless characterization and impeccable timing. Teri Hansen is wonderful as Mrs. Potts, and Steve Brady is excellent as the charming Maurice.

Even though Gaston is the “bad guy”, you will not be able to help wanting to see more of him. JoeHager so superbly portrays this character you’ll just love to hate him. From his spot-on tonality, to his insolent swagger, his characterization is sheer perfection. Supporting his idol’s every move of course is LeFou, marvelously played by Courter Simmons to hilarious effect.

Beauty and the Beast is a magical and wonderful production that should not be missed. One quick heads-up for parents, this show is not recommended for the under 5 crowd, those wolves were creepier than expected and there’s plenty of roaring from Beast, which could be a little too scary. For everyone else from 5 to 105 this show is the perfect addition to your holiday festivities.

 

Newsday

David J. Criblez


Watch Video

“Five, six, seven, eight,” snaps choreographer Debbie Roshe as a cast of dancers move about the wooden floor marked with spike tape switching from a soft-shoe step to a tango to a can-can kickline led by a man with a pair of candlesticks for hands. The number is “Be Our Guest,” which serves as the Act 1 showstopper of The Gateway’s production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” opening at Patchogue Theatre on Friday.

“This piece is basically eight dance numbers in one,” says Roshe. “Performing it requires over-the-top energy.”  

The candle-handed man is Jonathan Hadley, who plays Lumiere, a French servant who was turned into a candelabra when a curse was placed upon the Beast’s castle. He has his dance steps down, but he’s still working onthe song lyrics. “Every kid coming to this show is going to know every word so I want to make sure I’m word-perfect otherwise they’ll say, ‘Hey, you said that wrong!’ ” says Hadley. “This is almost like Shakespeare. People follow along word for word.”

CLOSE CAST
There’s a fluidity to this cast that makes each scene move seamlessly. Perhaps it’s because 21 of them are living under one roof on Gateway’s five-acre property in Bellport where they rehearse, rest and recreate.

“When a cast works together, eats together and lives together, they grow close. The more the cast gels offstage, the more it shows on stage,” says director Joe Minutillo. “When you have problems offstage, it bleeds right through. This cast in particular seems to be very tight.”

For example, at 8 a.m. each morning Emily Behny and Loren Christopher, who play Belle and the Beast, work out together at a gym in Patchogue. The actors have developed a strong rapport in the few weeks they’ve known each other.

“When you see someone as a person and not just a colleague from an artistic standpoint, some great colors can come from that,” says Christopher.

These two leads have portrayed their roles several times. Christopher was Gateway’s Beast in its 2013 production as well as reprising the role in Florida during the summer of 2017. Behny played Belle on the national Broadway tour from 2011 to 2012 for more than 500 performances.

“Like many young girls, I grew up watching the animated film and loved Belle. She was my favorite,” says Behny. “Belle has the characteristics of the person I hope to be — selfless, kind, strong-willed, unmoving, articulate and a dreamer. She is who I want to be when I grow up.”

BECOMING THE BEAST
Christopher has the physically taxing job of becoming a creature with large costume pieces and facial prosthetics. However, the transformation starts from within.

“You really have to feel like a Beast on the inside and that starts to carry through your body, voice and expressions,” he says. “Once they add the layers on top — wig, horns and prosthetics — it becomes a full body experience. You have to speak with everything.”

Makeup designer Ricky Vitus is the person who turns Christopher into the Beast, a process that takes all of 90 minutes. “This is a different Beast from what you normally see,” says Vitus. “He’s a more realistic version than the cartoon.”  

Silicone is used to create a mold of the actor’s face. Vitus then makes a cement copy of the actor’s face, which he uses to sculpt on and mold in building the form-fitting prosthetics.

Meanwhile, a few feet away, wig master Gabrielle Upshur is handcrafting The Beast’s mane.

“We are using human hair,” says Upshur. “He’ll be more of a honey blonde giving the character a natural feel.”

COMEDIC COUPLE
Most of the show’s comedy comes from the duo of Gaston, the macho pursuer of Belle’s affection, and his flunky LeFou, who he flips around on stage and even uses as a barbell at one point. This is old hat to Joe Hager and Courter Simmons, who have played their roles multiple times before, as well as together for Gateway in 2013.

“It’s very comfortable because we know each other already,” says Simmons, who is playing LeFou for the seventh time. “He’s physically picking me up and throwing me around. Because we trust each other it makes that part a lot easier.”

“We have a prearranged repertoire to give the director with multiple choices,” adds Hager, who is on his fourth portrayal of Gaston. “It helps us get stuff done that much faster.”  

BEHIND THE CURTAIN
In an old barn on the property, a production meeting irons out many details.

Prop master Mitch Domer is altering the top of Lumiere’s candlestick hands. “We didn’t want a flashing LED feel, but more of a flicker movement,” says Domer, who molded a Christmas ornament to replicate the cartoon flame.

Meanwhile technical director Brandon Cheney announces that the stage at Patchogue Theatre needs to be extended by three feet.

“It’s not quite big enough to hold all the scenery,” says Cheney. “We are building an extension over the orchestra, but it won’t affect the house seats.”

Backstage during the show, the costume team says it is set to help each cast member get in and out of costume.

“You have to be prepared for anything and everything,” says wardrobe supervisor Jordan Saylor. “It’s a lot of organization on the front end and then a big adrenaline rush kicks in. It’s very much like a dance using the same process every time, ‘Right leg, left leg, pants up, shirt on.’ It’s all very rehearsed and in the moment.”

The day before Thanksgiving, an actor cast as Mrs. Potts had to drop out of the show, leaving casting director Michael Baker with a hole to fill just days before rehearsals began.

“It was a bit of a nail-biter ,” Baker recalls. “You are never done casting until the final curtain because you just don’t know what could happen. But the show must go on.”